Should Christians avoid Halloween, turn the lights out and shun it as evil? Isn’t it afterall a celebration of darkness given its roots? Don’t its historic roots matter? This is something I was taught for years. I avoided it but admittedly went through some angst when my son was little. The more I wrestled with the issue, the more I realized that what was celebrated today was removed from whatever it once may have been. Nor did this have any meaning to little kids knocking on my door looking for candy. And so many cute costumes, too.
By the time I heard this lecture below by Dr. Mark Young, an overseas missionary for many years, former DTS professor in cross-cultural studies and current president of Denver Seminary, it pretty much confirmed why I have no problem with Halloween.
He makes a good case I think. But I’ve also come to learn that some Christians cannot disassociate the holiday from evil and so choose not to participate. I’ve come to learn that I should not encourage them in any way to do that for to do so, might cause them to stumble.
But on the flip side, Christians who see only evil in Halloween need to understand that some of us don’t see it that way. You are free not to participate if it goes against your conscience. But please do not insist that NO Christians should participate. And this is what bugs me the most, when either side tries to influence the other. Moreover, by insisting that it is wrong for Christians to participate, that young believer may be unnecessarily conflicted especially if they have not been convinced in their own mind that it is wrong.
Anyway, I love this lecture excerpt so I’m posting it but not to influence anyone.
One of the things that I looked forward to coming back to the United States was celebrating my favorite holiday, which I hadn’t been able to celebrate for some time while we lived overseas. So as we moved out of the summer and into the fall months, we began to see the decorations for my favorite holiday appear. One of those is this – a jack-o-lantern.
So we had a big party in our back yard. We invited kids over because we were trying to get to know our neighbors and we bought 5 or 6 pumpkins…And we had all kinds of jack-o-lanterns and we set them up outside our house and Halloween came. We had a mound of candy set aside. It was a beautiful evening in Garland that year. in fact it was so pretty, we actually went outside and sat at a table on our front yard and that evening, 82 kids came to my front door from our neighborhood, 82 kids walked up to my front door. I met them, I goofed off with them, a lot of them were walking with their families, I met their parents because we were in the front yard, we walked out, we shook their hands, we got to know families that we never met before, we got to know kids.
Well, my kids during the evening said dad, when are we going to go? Because we were having such fun we’d forgotten to take our kids out. So we take our kids out and by this time it’s dark…We noticed something; three houses away, totally dark. No sign of any decoration, no sign of anybody at home, porch light turned off, no sign of life. Walked around then neighborhood, another one dark; across the street, another one dark. Four houses on our street, both sides were just totally dark. I thought this is crazy what’s going on here? We went on around our neighborhood and one of the cul-de-sac’s this guy had opened, he had a front entry garage, he had opened up his garage, double garage, they had a buffet line set up . They had chips, they had salsa, they had little weenies floating in barbeque sauce and all manner of various kinds of libations to enjoy. There must have been 30 adults standing around.
We went on around the neighborhood, here’s a dark house, there’s a dark house, few dark houses. I thought to myself you know, I think I’m going to find out who these people with the dark houses are. So after Halloween, I go down the street to intentionally meet my neighbors and I knock on the first dark house. Introduce myself, you know my name – oh I’ve heard about you. You’re the professor down at DTS. Yeah, yeah that’s me, I’m working down – we were missionaries, oh that’s wonderful; you know we really love the Lord. Oh that’s good. I said you know I noticed on Halloween night that your house was dark. She said oh yeah, we don’t engage in Halloween. Really? No, no, no, we go down to the church, we have a harvest festival at church. Really? Yeah, yeah we believe that Halloween is the night of the devil, night of satan. No kidding? Yeah. She said in fact I meant to talk to you about your jack-o-lanterns, they were offensive to me. Really? She said yeah. You know several centuries ago in England those jack-o-lanterns were used to ward off evil spirits. Oh, okay. So I went to two or three others house, got basically the same story. The dark houses where the Christians live. They were all at church having a harvest festival. Why? Why would a Christian choose not to be at home on the night that 82 children walk up to your front door? What on earth would possess a Christian not to want to be there? So I did some investigation. Indeed, you can on the Internet you can find stories of how these jack-o-lanterns were used in ancient pagan religions to scare away saints and so then I decided maybe the Internet wasn’t the best place to look so I actually began to read Celtic history and began to understand a bit about that world and lo and behold I asked myself the question finally after all my reading, what difference does it make? In 1995, in south Garland, what function did this cultural form fulfill? What did it do? Did it drive away demons that night? What function did that jack-o-lantern perform on October 31st, 1995 in south Garland? Because that’s the ultimate question. What did it do?
Response: Welcoming your neighbors.
Instructor: It welcomed, it welcomed people. It said to them, come up to my house tonight. It also communicated participation in this holiday. Part of a structure? Sure it’s a part of a structure, it’s a part of a structure you could call it a community, a place where people lived and organized their lives with one another. Well what meaning did those 82 kids ascribe to that jack-o-lantern when they saw it or those jack-o-lanterns outside my front door? What meaning did they ascribe to? Candy! Guy has candy. May be, nice guy. Anything in my worldview that makes me want to be a nice guy? Sure, it’s called the love of Christ for the lost. That type of cultural analysis it seems to me has far, far, far more validity than what happened with this particular kind of cultural object 600 years ago in England but yet Christians are willing to step out of their communities and not be home when 82 kids walk up to their front door because they’re bringing a function and a meaning from 600 years ago into a cultural form today… [end]